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Definition vs. Evaluation Essay Writing

Definition vs. Evaluation Essay Writing: Main Differences

Nov 26, 2012 - Posted to  Essay Writing
An essay is defined as a short piece of writing on a particular subject. Of course, that could also describe an article. What exactly is the difference? Both are written from the author's point of view, both address specific subjects, and both are typically brief. The main difference between the two is structure and genre. There are over a dozen types of essays students may be asked to write during their educational training. In this article we will discuss two of the most complicated ones.

What is a Definition essay?

Whether the word is concrete or abstract, a definition essay must define it and present clear information to make it real to the reader. For example, how would you define an abstract word like honesty? If you asked ten people, you'd probably get ten different answers. And that is the purpose of a definition essay. You must present your own definition of what the term means to you and support your opinion with examples, facts, even anecdotes.

Selecting a definition

While it is possible to choose a concrete term like "key" or "door", it is often more challenging and rewarding to select one like "love" or "beauty." These abstract terms give the writer a lot of leeway and let him fully develop his argument using countless examples and anecdotes. When writing about love, for example, the author could quote Shakespeare or Harry Potter. It is also important to note that you might not want to tackle too broad a subject. So, instead of love, you might select the term "platonic love."

Thesis statement

After you have selected your term, you must create a thesis sentence by defining what the word means to you. For example, "Courage is standing up for your ideas and beliefs." Whether abstract or concrete, you can define the term by its function, structure, meaning, or by analysis. You can even define the term for what it does not mean.

Explain your definition

Most of your definition essay will be devoted to explaining your term so that readers fully understand it. You can use examples, facts, anecdotes, even stories. For example, most of us are familiar with the story about George Washington chopping down a cherry tree and how he freely admitted what he had done. That story might help readers grasp the definition of "truthfulness."

What is an Evaluation essay?

While it is similar to a definition essay in many ways, an evaluation essay belongs to a genre of its own. Both use evidence and value judgments to support an author's opinions about a particular subject. But an evaluation essay must follow a set of fixed rules or criteria. It is not enough to simply give examples or include anecdotes; they must conform to strict and recognizable standards.

Locate criteria for an evaluation

Whether the subject is boxing, investing, or reviewing a film, there are standards that people must abide by in order to ply their trade or even to be taken seriously. Let's say, for example that you wanted to write a review on a local restaurant, but you had never written about food before. You wouldn't just wing it, would you? Of course not! If you were serious about your craft, you would read up on the subject. Maybe do some research on the internet or at the library?

Applications

Evaluation essays are commonly assigned in college and are even used in the workforce, especially in highly technical fields. For example, a young stockbroker might be asked to compose an evaluation of an emerging market or industry. Would he begin by simply putting pen to paper or fingers to keypad? Not unless he wanted to lose his job! If he were bright and ambitious, he would surely research emerging industries and gather the data and statistics he needed to support his recommendation.
This same due diligence is not required for a definition essay. The author need simply define the term on his own and then provide examples, facts, and anecdotes to help the reader understand it. There is no need to adhere to a certain recognized standard, since the definition is based on your personal opinion.

How to begin?

  • Simply state the subject you'll be evaluating. This can be done in the heading or the title of your essay.
  • Next you must state your evaluation of the subject, preferably as succinctly as possible.
  • The rest of the essay should be devoted to providing evidence that supports your opinion with quotes, facts, or relevant examples.
Some writers use opposing views to acknowledge that there are many different opinions on the subject they choose. They then incorporate quotes and examples to illustrate how the other side is incorrect, thereby reinforcing their original argument. This technique can be utilized to good effect, but is should be used sparingly. After all, you don't want to spend too much of your paper talking about other people's opinions.
Conclude your essay by reiterating the subject of your evaluation and then repeat your personal opinion and the proof you provided in your paper. Go out on a high note by using a famous quote that readers will recognize.

A few more tips

Choose your references carefully. The more credible they are, the more convincing your essay will be. Also remember that the more controversial the subject of your evaluation essay is, the more supporting evidence you will need. For example, if you are taking on a subject like prayer in schools, there will be many proponents and opponents, no matter which side you choose. Therefore, your facts and references had better be accurate, or someone may take you to task.
Last but not least, we wanted to talk a bit about grammar. Because it is such a complicated genre, some students devote almost all of their time to research and fact checking. This often means that elementary things like grammar, punctuation, and style suffer. Just remember that you are still working on a formal essay and that your teacher or boss may consider you unprofessional if you ignore the basics.
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